ch5 fun with ecommerce - part I - Shopify

(NOTE: You can download a copy of this chapter in PDF format at the very bottom of this page.)

Fun with Analytics

Chapter 5: Fun with eCommerce Analytics Part I: Shopify


Welcome to Fun with Analytics. If you’ve come across this material on its own – it has two homes – one is a site where you can download copies of the chapters or read them online, at - the other is a LinkedIn Group, Learning Google Analytics, where you can discuss the material and ask questions:

In This Chapter

Tracking ROI is a 50 billion dollar skill, because it’s at the core of Google’s success, and you could argue it’s a trillion dollar skill, because of how much revenue Google helps businesses to make. In this chapter we’re going to look at how to set up a Shopify account, which is one of the easiest ways to set up a “real” eCommerce system to learn about tracking ROI with analytics. I think it’s important to see how you can set things up so that when you make an ad, you can track exactly how much money you are making. This is a fundamental concept and opportunity in analytics, where Google Analytics and Adwords can act together. So my goal has been to find the easiest, least expensive way to set up the moving pieces, and Shopify is part of the puzzle. Originally I’d hoped to include the “entire life cycle” in one chapter, but I decided to split the chapter into two – the first will be laying the foundation, in Shopify, and the next chapter will cover connecting things in Adwords.

In an ideal world, this would be free – but from what I can tell, there isn’t an ecommerce platform out there that is a) free and b) will also allow you to do conversion tracking. At the time of writing, there are some platforms such as Gumroad, which are free and allow some basic tracking, but if you point an ad at a Gumroad site, you are still guessing about the effectiveness of particular ads.

The great strength of being able to do “real” conversion tracking is that in Google Adwords, you can tell exactly how effective a particular ad has been, in terms of making money. And when you or your employer or client is spending money on ads, this is why it’s important to know what is most effective – so you can spend money on ads with confidence, instead of guesswork. That’s the exciting thing about setting up the full deal.

So unless I’m missing something, setting up Shopify, at $30/month, is about the best and easiest way to do things at present (please email me if you know of an alternative).

Understanding Conversion Tracking

At a high level, conversion tracking is what allows Google to make 50 billion dollars a year. The magic behind this machine is that unlike most other forms of advertising, with Adwords you can get analytics that tell you exactly how much money you are making, based on what you are spending. If you spent money on a billboard, you can only guess at how many people are influenced to purchase – the same thing goes for television, radio, and most other forms of advertising.

So if you’re spending $1000/month on Google ads, and you know you’re making 10,000.00 as a result, you can confidently consider increasing the budget, or just keeping it in place. Without the conversion tracking, you have no idea. Of course, selling something online is not as simple as just placing an ad on Google – people have to want what you are selling, and there’s also competition for Google ads. But when you follow the best practices for online marketing, and when you have conversion tracking in place, it gives you analytics to track ROI, return on investment, bottom line.

In terms of Google Analytics and Google Adwords, they are both tools. Google Analytics and Google Adwords work closely together, but it’s the conversion tracking that makes the difference.

Why Shopify? Why “Live”?

So my recommendation is to follow along in this chapter, as a learning experience about how ecommerce comes together, and I want to invite you to consider setting up a “live” shopify site. You can start thinking about finding a product that you could sell, even a physical product, if you have one, or can think of someone who might like some help in exploring this area. Another area which might be slightly easier to develop and manage, as part of a learning experience, is a digital product – such as taking anything that could be written/developed in Microsoft Office or Open Office (free), saving it in PDF format, and making it a digital download.

You are also welcome to use the Social Media Marketing book PDF as a live file to place on your “test” shopify store. Ultimately, the competition for keywords about social media marketing in adwords means the money you’d have to spend in order to actually sell the PDF, might be more than you’d want to spend – but it still might be worth the test. And when the Web Analytics book is finished, there might be less competition there in terms of keywords, and you could use that file. The only thing I’d ask is that you contact me first – partly because if multiple people are using it as a sample, it would probably make sense for me to coordinate “areas” that you could target your ads to.

Don’t worry if you don’t have experience in ecommerce, adwords, etc. – I’m trying to make it as easy as possible to try. And even if you wanted to keep spending down to a bare, bare minimum – you could also get one or two friends to search on google for the keywords you choose, click on the google ad, follow it through to your site, and purchase the item – that would allow you to see the full life cycle of conversion tracking.

And it is an exciting thing, to be able to trace it, for real. It’s also an important skill, and I do think that it’s worth pursuing, so that whether you are just learning for yourself, or expanding your skillset at work, or building your skills to find work – you can say “I have experience setting up an ecommerce site and generating analytics with conversion tracking in Adwords”. This will definitely get peoples’ attention.

So there might be alternatives to Shopify, but Google itself recommended them as an option for ecommerce, when they discontinued Google Checkout, and Shopify has pretty good support. Using a combination of these chapters, the extra links for learning material, and the 800 numbers for support, I think it is realistic and doable to try this out. And there’s also the LinkedIn Group to pose questions as well (ideally after you’ve tried asking either Google or Shopify support).

So, I think it’s doable, that you will find it exciting, so I recommend trying it. And you might want to start by reading both these chapters, and then try doing a shopify site one day, and maybe set up the Google Adwords on another day.

Think of it as a ride at an amusement park – it will be a new experience – but it can be fun!


Note: if you do want to try using the sample files and text that I provide, you can find them at:

To get started, go to, and click Get started:

Note: until/unless things change, you can definitely do a free trial to try shopify without spending money, but in order to be able to do the conversion tracking, you’ll have to “pick a plan”, and spend 29.95/mo or so until you cancel. Given the impact it could have on your business, career, employer, I do think it’s worth it.

Next, enter your email address, a password, and a store name, and click Create your store now:

The store name could be anything you like it to – ideally related to the product you want to try selling. To make it easy, you could just use your initials, and say something like JDmarket. You’ll end up with an address like, and if you like this ecommerce thing, you can always upgrade to a full website name like

When you’ve got a name, choose the Online Store checkbox and click Next:

Then enter your name and address information:

(and click Next)

At this point, I’m going to follow the scenario of digital products – if you’re going for physical products, there’s more to configure, but you can always guess and then call Shopify support. So you can make some basic choices and click Take me to my Store:

Next you will actually add a product.

.If you are following along with a digital product, you can enter a title (and you can grab the sample text from the CASA site if you like)

Then click Add product:

Next choose images (ex: a book cover for a digital product – if you are uploading your own and don’t have a cover image, try hiring someone on or, or read the Content chapter in the Social Media Marketing primer for some tools on working with images – maybe go for something like 250 x 450, using SnagIt or Photoshop or Gimp (free) to add text, and maybe use clip art from

Or use the sample image from

.After you upload an image, it should look something like this:

Then click Save

The Shopify wizard will walk you through things, and you can click on the “2 steps” link:

In theory you should also see a link like this, where you can click View Your Store to see a preview of what it looks like:

Customize Navigation

The next thing you’ll want to do is to customize navigation. If you know that only you and your friends will be looking at the store, not all the steps I go through are necessary, but it still might be a good experience – the more likely you are to try and actually get people to visit the store and buy something, the more you’ll want to tweak.

To customize the navigation, go to the menu on the left side of the screen, click Navigation:

In this section I’m recommending taking out a few things, such as the link to the Blog – to make it easier so you won’t have to add content to it or maintain it. If you want to blog about the ecommerce store, go for it! Just make sure you regularly add posts, so that someone doesn’t come to the site and find old blog posts, or no blog posts – that will make things less professional. You can also add a blog later.

.Next click “Edit Link List”:

And then click the trash icon next to the blog:

And click Save:

If you encounter a link like this, you might just want to click Skip:

Add product to front page

Even after you add a product, you’ll want to add it to the front page.

Go to the left navigation and click Collections:

And look for the Front Page collection.

Then click on the Add Products menu:

And select the product you added to the system before:

It should show up in the list:

And then you can click Save:

Tweaking and Payments

Shopify makes it about as easy as it can get, to set up a fully functional ecommerce site and accept payments. It used to be, and often still is the case, that you either need to be a web developer, hire one, or learn how to be one, and work with a hosting company to put a lot of pieces together, including adding payment processing to your website, etc. Suffice to say jumping through the hoops on Shopify is a lot easier than most situations.

Next, go to your Dashboard:

And you will probably see a wizard like this:

If you’re following the “digital products” example, all you really need to do is enter your banking information. Even if it’s just you and your friends, colleagues or classmates testing things out, you should probably enter the information.

.First, click Complete Shopify Payments account setup:

You’ll probably want to choose Individual/Sole Proprietorship:

Note: by continuing to read, you are accepting the fact that I am not giving you tax or business advice, just options to consider.

Next, uncheck “We sell and ship physical goods”:

And type in eBooks:

Then enter your business address:

And enter your bank information:

and click Complete account setup:

Then click Save

Then click Back to Admin:

Next, if you like you can click the check boxes on the left, by shipping rates and tax rates:

And then you can click “Remove your store password”, and it will lead you to pick a plan:

Pick a Plan

This is where you have to pay. The trial allows you and others to visit the site, and it’s live, but they need a password, and random visitors from a google ad wouldn’t be able to get in. In theory, to make it completely free, “if” you are going to have friends find the google ad and click on it, and you give them the password, technically you might be able to try things out via shopify for free. I haven’t tested that, but it might be possible.

My recommendation is, make it live, go through the exercise of making it as professional looking as possible, spend the money if you can, as a learning experience, even if you’re just using the sample files – then find a person with a real product, physical or digital to sell. Chances are there are probably a fair number of people in your community who might be trying to find a solution like that, or a better one than they have, and if someone comes along to help them, they might even pay for everything, as well as pay you to help them.

So, click pick a plan:

.And I’d suggest the cheapest plan – click Choose this plan:

And you probably will want the “once a month” plan instead of the yearly plan:

Then click Confirm changes:

Next, click “remove your storefront password”:

Uncheck “Password protect your storefront”:

And click Save:

Note: if you were/are paying attention, you might notice that you can connect Google Analytics to your storefront. So when you do that, what you would mainly be gathering is “conventional” analytics, such as behavior and number of visitors to your shopify site. So you could try that, but the focus for now is on setting up conversion tracking, so I’d suggest filing that away for later, if you plan on wanting to learn about ecommerce analytics with an ongoing store.

Click Back to Admin:

Setting Price

So for any product you sell, you’ll need to set the price. Click on the Products link:

And then select a product to price:

In order to have a price, you have to make a “variant”. Often ecommerce items like t-shirts will have different sizes, colors, etc. – so for a digital download, you could just have a name for a particular edition, like “First Edition” or “Version 1.0”.

To proceed, click the Edit link:

And type in a variant name and price:

Note: by continuing to read, you agree I’m not giving you business or tax advice!

So if you’re just doing this as a limited time experience, you may not need to charge taxes, and unless you are shipping physical goods, you don’t need to require a physical address:

So you could uncheck both, and then click Save and Close:

TIP: If you plan to sell things ongoing, I’d recommend finding an accountant. The old principle is, focus on what you do the best (ex: marketing), and work with others to do the rest (ex: accounting). You can do preliminary research on google, such as “do digital downloads require taxes?”. And you can also call Shopify support for questions. Most likely they will help you configure but will probably say that ultimately tax strategy should be determined in conjunction with an accountant. At a high level, the landscape seems to shift – in some cases, if you’re shipping to the same area that you are shipping from, taxes may apply, and because of changing legislation, there may be taxes anyway. For a long time businesses like Amazon in some cases haven’t had to charge taxes for online purchases where buying in a local retailer would cause local sales tax. But local and state governments are catching up with this and starting to push for tax revenue. Something to research if you’re interested in ecommerce – but ultimately I’d still recommend working with an accountant. Better to do it right than get burned later.

.Next, you might like to scroll up on the screen, and click View in your website:

And then take a look. Congratulations! You have fought half the battle in setting up ecommerce. Maybe more than half. Ok let’s say a third. Next get everything configured and get some visitors (in the next chapter).

So the actual link for your site will be something like this:

More Tweaks

Not strictly necessary, but recommended.

Even if you took the blog link off, there might still be a News section on your front page:

To get rid of this you can click Themes:

Then Customize theme:

And Footer:

Then click the X next to blog:

Note: this page also happens to be where you can configure “where” your social media icons point to. I wouldn’t worry about it, but you can always come back later and add (see Social Media Marketing Primer – In the meantime if anyone actually clicks on those icons it will go to Shopify.

Finally, click Save:

Updating Content

You’ll want to spruce things up a bit. Click on Pages:

And Frontpage:

And add some description material:

For example, using the sample text/files mentioned earlier, you could add the following, or just type in whatever you want, and click Save:

(And if you want to “Go Pro”, hire a copywriter, locally or through elance or odesk)

Next, click Pages:

And click on the About Us link:

.And using the sample text or your own text, enter in About Us text – and maybe use Shopify’s suggestions as a guide:

Feel free to use the sample text . . . :

Text available at:

Then click Save:

Adding the Digital Product

Next, you’ll actually need to upload a digital product, using an “app” shopify has. Again, feel free to use the sample files:

Click on Apps:

Then “Visit the App Store”:

And type in digital downloads, and select from the drop down list:

Next click Install Digital Downloads:

.Now you’ll need to select a product that you set up before. Click the “product” link:

Then select your product you want to upload a file for:

Then click on the little “…” icon, and choose Add Digital Attachment:

Next, click Upload File:

And the file should upload:

Congrats! You set up a digital download.

TIP: To see your store, you can click on the middle icon at the bottom of the left navigation:

.Buy It

So at this point, I recommend buying your own product, just to test it out, and to get that sense of satisfaction that comes from setting things up. Click Add to cart:

Click at the cart icon at the top of the screen. If you want to make it clearer to visitors what to click on and where, add text in your product description like “Click on Add to cart to buy, then click on the Cart icon at the top of the screen to check out””

Next you can click Check out:

And you’ll get the standard user experience. For digital downloads, it collects email:

Note: if you plan to do this ongoing, you’ll probably want to establish a privacy policy and put it on the site in relation to emails you capture. Ask Shopify about this.

Next you’ll get a confirmation, and buyers can download “now” or through the email they get sent

Take a Deep Breath

Ok – take a deep breath.

Congratulations! You made it through setting up an ecommerce site. It’s live, and ready to advertise!

.Learning More

To learn more about shopify, this link might be helpful:

The page also has options for email, live chat and calling 24/7.

You can also get assistance from a shopify expert, in hiring someone to help you set things in motion, via


I think that going through the process of setting up an ecommerce site gets at the heart of analytics, bringing you closer than ever to being able to experience ROI first hand. Not many online marketing professionals can say they’ve done this – especially on their own. So even if you don’t plan on selling anything yourself, I still recommend considering this, so if you end up with an employer or client who is trying to figure this out, you’re one step ahead. Also, you might end up doing analytics in a situation where all the underlying connections have been made – but I still recommend learning about this, so that you can have the “Aha!” moment. It’s partly about inspiration and importance. I do believe that ROI is one of the most important concepts, if not “the” most important concept, in online marketing, whether you see analytics as a full time possibility, or just a skill in your toolbox.

Getting your head around ROI, understanding it, will help you to be a stronger analyst or online marketer, period. Because if your emphasis is on ROI, then you will be helping yourself, your employer, your clients to have more sustainable online marketing efforts.


You are welcome to visit and join the LinkedIn Group at - if you want to come on and say “huh?” or if you would like to set me straight on something, or just have some feedback.

Remember, there are NO DUMB QUESTIONS. If you have the question, someone else surely also did.

(NOTE: You can download a copy of this chapter in PDF format at the very bottom of this page.)